Preview: Central Coast v Gold Coast
It's the final battle of the Coasts for 2009-10 and this once could have a big impact on the make-up of the final six.
Date: Friday, January 22 Kick-off: 8pm local (8pm AEDT) Venue: Bluetongue Stadium TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1, 1 HD and Sky Sport 3. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au
Head-to-head Played 2: Wins: Central Coast Mariners 1, Gold Coast United 1
Previous meeting Gold Coast United 2, Central Coast 1, Skilled Park, Round 17, December 2009
Past five matches: Central Coast Mariners: Round 20: Central Coast Mariners 2, Brisbane Roar 3, Bluetongue Stadium Round 19: Central Coast Mariners 0, Sydney FC 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 21: Central Coast Mariners 0, Wellington Phoenix 2, Bluetongue Stadium Round 22: Central Coast Mariners 1, North Queensland 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 23: Adelaide United 1, Central Coast Mariners 1, Hindmarsh Stadium
Gold Coast United: Round 20: Gold Coast United 2, Perth Glory 0, Skilled Park Round 21: Gold Coast United 5, Brisbane Roar 1, Skilled Park Round 22: Gold Coast United 1, Adelaide United 1, Skilled Park Round 19: Gold Coast United 2, Newcastle Jets 0, Skilled Park Round 23: Sydney FC 0, Gold Coast United 1, Sydney Football Stadium
Analysis: The Central Coast Mariners are one of three clubs dirty with Adelaide for blowing its 2-0 lead in the dramatic Round-19 catch-up clash on Tuesday.
If the Reds had claimed an upset victory the Mariners would have been playing for sixth spot on Friday. Instead they'll be playing to stay in finals contention in a tricky home clash against the Gold Coast.
Central Coast hasn't won in seven matches but coach Lawrie McKinna believes his team has turned the corner after recording draws in its past two fixtures.
Its Round-23 stalemate with Adelaide at Hindmarsh Stadium was the more convincing of the two draws. With a touch of luck the visitors would have won, given they created plenty of scoring opportunities. Pedj Bojic and John Hutchinson were important players while Nik Mrdja made the most of a penalty kick but also looked dangerous every time he collected the ball just outside the box.
Qantas Socceroo Dean Heffernan is out with a back injury but Michael McGlinchey (who came off the bench last week) is a likely replacement in the starting 11. Nicky Travis has also been named in the squad.
In contrast the past couple of months have been fruitful for the Gold Coast, which has lost just once in the past seven weeks. It is chock full of confidence after its 1-0 victory over Sydney FC as the three points saw the league new boys reclaim top spot.
The result was pleasing on two fronts - it was a win against one of the Coast's closest rivals but also showed the team is more than just the Shane Smeltz-Jason Culina show. Joel Porter scored the first-half goal while Dino Djulbic had a strong performance too in defence.
And with Charlie Miller returning from a thigh strain and Steve Pantelidis set for more game time this weekend, they can only get stronger.
Headline machine and Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg claims the Central Coast is a spent force after taking part in the Asian Champions League earlier this year. He said the last time the teams met back in December he sensed they might be on the slide.
But the rest of the Gold Coast camp is more wary of the Mariners who did give them a 3-0 touch up in the teams' first clash of the season.
The Mariners are a physical no-nonsense team which will grind its way to a win whereas the Gold Coast rely on pace and skill for their results.
It's hard to know which style will reign supreme or whether McKinna's boys precarious situation will give them a greater hunger in this match.
The Gold Coast is on a roll and will have learnt enough from their last trip to Bluetongue Stadium to get the points in this one.
Central Coast Mariners squad: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 2. Matthew CROWELL, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Brad PORTER, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 9. Nik MRDJA, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 15. Andrew CLARK, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 17. Chris DOIG, 18. Alex WILKINSON (C), 19. Matt SIMON, 20. Danny VUKOVIC (GK), 22. Nicky TRAVIS, 23. Adam KWASNIK
In: Nicky TRAVIS (returns from illness)
Out: Dean HEFFERNAN (back - 1 week)
Unavailable: Ahmad ELRICH (ankle - 1 week), Shane HUKE (quad - 1 week)
Gold Coast United squad: 1.Jess VANSTRATTAN [gk], 2.Steve PANTELIDIS, 3.Michael THWAITE, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10.Jason CULINA (c), 11.Charlie MILLER, 13.Bas VAN DEN BRINK, 14.Joel PORTER, 15.Tahj MINNIECON, 16.Kristian REES, 17.Matt OSMAN, 18.James BROWN, 20.Scott HIGGINS [gk], 23.Steve FITZSIMMONS, 24.ANDERSON, 36.Dino DJULBIC.
In: Charlie MILLER (return from thigh injury), Matt OSMAN (promoted)
Unavailable: Adama TRAORE (ankle injury - 1 week), Daniel PIORKOWSKI (ankle injury - indefinite), ROBSON (knee injury - 1 week), JEFFERSON (knee injury - indefinite)